Women in drought-ravaged Eastern Somaliland are being pushed to the edge, desperately searching for food for their children. Some have lost family members, and many have lost their livestock which is their means of making a living.
A lot of women are alone with their children in settlement camps, while their husbands have taken any surviving livestock to find water.
Six women in a settlement camp near Burao told Oxfam their stories…
Ayan Said and her son Mohammed outside their home in a settlement for internally displaced people in Garadag. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
Ayan Said is 23 years old. Her family had a herd of 300 sheep, worth $24,000. As the drought wore on, they started dying. Ayan and her family travelled 50km to look for help. Now, they’re left with only 10 sheep.
A few months after making the journey, her youngest son Ismail, age 2, got sick with diarrhoea and flu. Sadly, 15 days later, he died.
Ayan near the graveyard where her son, Ismail, is buried. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
“We couldn’t do anything for him. I couldn’t take him to hospital, I couldn’t give him the medicine or food he needed. There was nothing we could do,” Ayan said.
“I am not well. I worry all the time. I am alone here with one child at the moment and I am terrified by hunger and thirst. I have nightmares about that. We have no water, no food or shelter. My child did not die suddenly, but I couldn’t do anything about it. We have no food for tonight. I am going to have to ask neighbours for it.
“Mohammed [her son] doesn’t really understand that we don’t have food or what has happened to our family. He asks for food all the time. I try to distract him, I tell him stories, sing and play with him. Sometimes I just don’t know what to say to my little boy.
“People must understand that here we need help. We need food, water, medicine for the sick. Everyone is getting sick. If the rains don’t come things will get much worse – and there won’t be anything we can do.”
Hodan Abdi Mohammed is 45 years old. Hodan said she lost all of her family, including her six children and her husband, from sickness and lack of food. She couldn’t go to hospital with the children when they were sick as it would have been too expensive for her to travel there. She has no livestock either, leaving her with no way of making a living.
Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
Deqa Abdi is 26 years old. Deqa has six children – 5 boys and a girl. Her newborn, Suleiman, is just eighteen days old and is sick with stomach problems. Deqa and her children travelled to find food and water and ended up settling at the camp as she was heavily pregnant and couldn’t travel any further. She has no way of getting water for her and her family without going into debt.
Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
“We eat once a day – only rice. My children are hungry and they complain all the time. I play with them to calm them down; sometimes, to distract them, I encourage them to play fight. I give them water and tea to fill their stomachs,” Deqa said.
“We stand here like trees, waiting and waiting [for the rains to come]. But it will get worse. I don’t know what to tell the children.”
Muna Said is 21 years old. Her family have been travelling for miles on foot and had to stop at the camp because she is nine months pregnant. Her husband is sick and is in the hospital.
“We had nothing left in our village, so we came here. We don’t have food or water here either – we rely completely on others. I am worried about my husband – he is not well and not getting better. I am about to give birth any day. Without food, I am scared I won’t be able to feed my baby,” Muna said.
Muna and her three-year-old son. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
Faduma Farah Jama is a 50-year-old mother of six. She lost her husband three months ago to measles, and has lost her father-in-law as well. Now her children are sick with the flu and diarrhoea. Her family used to have 400 goats and 14 camels, but they only have a few animals left now.
Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
“We don’t want to complain, but the men of our family are dead. We don’t have animals apart from these few sheep and goats; we don’t have food. What kind of future are we going to have?” she said.
“The water is salty and is undrinkable. Without any support, without the rains and without the men to work and support us, we are eventually going to die. We don’t have enough food, clean water or decent shelter even. Everyone is in the same situation, the poor have become poorer across the whole of Somaliland. We need all the help we can get.
“When the children are hungry I try to distract them all the time. I try and tell them a story – sometimes it doesn’t work, and they cry themselves to sleep.”
Faduma outside her house in Fadigaab. She is one of over 3000 internally displaced people in the area. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
Seynes Awil is 30 years old and has eight children. Her husband is a herder and they used to have 400 sheep, 100 camels and 7 donkeys. The animals started dying last summer and they only have 3 left alive. Her husband is not with her – he is looking after these remaining animals and Seynes has no way of contacting him and doesn’t know where he is.
“My children used to drink milk and eat meat every day. Now they cry all the time. They say they are hungry, they ask for meat and milk. I try and give them a little sugar until they cry themselves to sleep . I cannot sleep at night. I worry about the future all the time. My children are suffering from hunger. It hurts me that my husband left me like this, I feel so alone with this responsibility. I have to do everything for everyone. I have to be mother and father,” she said.
“My children are sick. My one year old has been sick for two months now, I don’t have any breast milk to feed her with – no milk at all. If the rains don’t come this spring we will all probably die.”
Seynes shows her last remaining food stock. Photo: Petterik Wiggers/Oxfam
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